Looking for Wholeness

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I thought I was doing so well in my healing from my husband’s infidelity. And then tonight – BAM! I feel like I am back at square one. And it is not anything he did or didn’t do. It is me – I realized I am still very broken and am despairing about whether I will ever regain my footing and self-confidence.

It started with a misunderstanding, when I felt he was challenging me about something, and I defaulted to defensiveness (a learned pattern from my family of origin that I have tried so hard to get over but clearly have not been entirely successful in doing so). That led to an argument, which then led to me spiraling down and some old feelings of insecurity getting dredged up, where I feel that somehow I am not “enough” for him and wonder why he wants to be with me. He basically said WTF…could not understand why I would go there, as it has been 3 years since he saw OW and over 2 years since he last spoke with her.

It scares me that I still feel so little confidence that my husband really wants to be with me and is happy with me. I still compare myself unfavorably to OW and feel that she has something I don’t, and that try as I might I will never be able to give him what she did. Whenever he gets upset with me about something, I get a panicky feeling that he will decide it is not worth it with me. And then I end up making the situation worse as my insecurities get the better of me.

I realize that I have not forgiven myself for the things I did and failed to do that made him vulnerable to an affair. Logically I know that it was not all my fault, but emotionally I feel ashamed and responsible that he felt the need to go elsewhere for love and intimacy.

It is funny how sometimes you read or hear an idea at exactly the time you need it. That happened to me tonight when I got up and was reading my email when I couldn’t sleep because I was feeling so distraught. In another blog, bekahoutsidethebox was writing about a Dharma talk she had heard by Ajahn Amaro (a Buddhist monk) about relationships and sexuality.

She wrote that per Ajahn Amaro  “relationships are one of two types, either (1) Relationships of Separateness, or (2) Relationships of Wholeness. In a Relationship of Separateness, there is a rigid “me/you” structure, where we are looking to the relationship as a way to make ourselves complete. We come in with a sense of expectation, of desire, and we look to the other person as someone who will fulfill us. When they inevitably disappoint, or annoy, or fail to make us feel good (because, after all, they are human), we grip tighter, we get closer, we try harder. But it is impossible for any other human being to satisfy us all the time, so we end up feeling alienated, lost, like there is an important piece missing. On the other hand, in a Relationship of Wholeness, we let go of the expectations and desires, and we come into the relationship trusting that we are already whole and complete. Our own happiness and security is not dependent on anyone other than ourselves. The relationship is based on respect, kindness, and appreciation, but we do not solidify our view of the other person or try to change them in any way. We are so secure in ourselves that we can let go completely (which is, as Amaro points out,ironically a really attractive quality in a person).”

This hit me like a ton of bricks. That is the problem – I have been looking to my husband to reassure me and convince me that I am whole and complete and lovable – and when he tries I can never seem to internalize or trust what he is saying. Now I see the futility in that, and how hard it must be for him to try and fail to make me feel truly loved and accepted by him.

I need to find and trust in that wholeness in myself so that I can bring my best self to our relationship. I think my husband has learned that lesson the hard way as he struggled to understand why he made the choices he did. In order for us to finish healing, I now need to learn that lesson as well, to stop punishing myself for my perceived failures and realize that while I am not perfect, I am lovable and whole just as I am, and that we are both lucky to have each other. Easier said than done, but I am grateful that at least I now know the work is mine to do and that my insecurities should not be projected on to him.

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21 responses »

  1. Kali4ever, thank you for sharing yourself so honestly. Though they may be different from my own, I can so relate to your struggles. I too have found myself distraught and unable to sleep, and reading other people’s blogs for comfort (my favorite: http://lovewastingtime.com) … I’m so glad that it worked out that my post was there for you last night.

    • Thanks, Bekaoutsidethebox. I thoroughly enjoy your blog posts and almost always relate deeply with what you are saying. I expect that you will be a wonderful yoga teacher! I checked out the bog you mentioned, and I can see why you like it! It is now on my list of favorites as well. Thanks again for stopping by!

    • Waikikipepper, I’m glad my post was helpful to you! I have gained so much insight and support from the blogging community myself as evidenced by my post. I’m eager to check out your blog and find out more about your journey. It’s good we can help each other!

  2. That’s a fascinating post, and it’s clear that this still cuts you very deeply. I’m not at all sure that I go along with these clear cut definitions of relationships that are peddled to us. There are as many different types of relationships are there are couples. It’s easy to recognise types like those that you describe, and fall into the trap that this statement is true. That’s largely because we are all looking for answers, when the reality is, that there probably aren’t any.
    The reasons why your husband strayed are complex and unique, and you both contributed to that in your own way. Punishing him or yourself is never going to help you get over this, and frankly I don’t think you will ever trust him not to stray again. He may well have got the taste for something exciting outside of marriage and feel compelled to seek that out again. I imagine that the reasons he originally strayed remain the same, that’s why I’m suggesting that.
    Men look upon these things very differently to women, and we’re only alive today because our genes have been selected for over thousands of generations. The traits that men and women possess bear witness to that. It’s a fact that most men would never consider leaving their wife and the mother of their children for another woman. Seeking out sexual encounters and looking for a partner are poles apart. The fact that your husband is still living with you three years after his infidelity should tell you loud and clear where he feels he belongs, and who he wants to share his life with.
    Our expectations of marital relationships are deeply distorted by society, and this is beautifully explored in this fascinating piece that was published on Valentines day. I have to say that I sign up to this viewpoint completely, you may find it interesting.
    Viewpoint: Down with romantic love http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-21410275
    I do feel for you though, it takes a lot of courage to move forward when you discover that the relationship you have is not quite the way it was in reality.

    • amildmanneredman, thanks for your thoughtful comments and perspective. You are right that it is so tempting to look for formulaic ways to make sense of things and to figure out how to move forward, especially when the rug has been pulled out from under you and you are yearning for something, ANYTHING to grasp onto.

      I look forward to reading the article you referenced. I read a book recently called Sex at Dawn : How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships. The premise of the book is that lifetime monogamy has not been the norm through much of history and is most likely not natural for humans or other members of the animal kingdom. I found it very thought provoking. The key to me is open communication. If my husband wants to have other sexual partners, he needs to communicate that and discuss it with me. Then I can decide whether I want to continue in a relationship with him on that basis, and he can make his final decision with eyes open as to the impact his choice to have other sexual partners will have on our relationship. What is totally NOT cool to me is for him to make a unilateral decision that ends up impacting both of us, and sneaking around and lying about it.

      • I couldn’t agree more about your last comment. It took me a long time to pluck up the courage to ask, but I realised that it had to be done.
        I have to confess that I don’t read relationship books, but I am interested in evolution and the selection pressures on males and females. Richard Dawkins explains this brilliantly even though I can’t stand the way he comes across on television.
        The key thing to remember is how males and females most successfully pass on their genes. Because males pass theirs on through their sperm, and females through their children, the selection pressures are totally different. The consequences of that are fascinating, and explain why some men cheat and some women trick men into supporting children that aren’t even theirs.
        Your book is quite right about monogamy, I think it’s a fantasy that we’ve ever been that way. There’s no way that’s in a males genes interest, so it can’t be true as a rule for us. And what does a woman care about her own fidelity, just as long as her child is supported by someone. It’s a dog eat dog world when you cut back to the basics of nature. In that world, success of genes is all that matters in the long run.
        We are but a few steps from being savages, and we would do well to remember that.

    • amildmanneredman, I also wanted to mention that I imagine that affairs with a heavy emotional component have a very different impact on a betrayed wife than a one-night stand where the man doesn’t have any interest in seeing the OW again. The health risks to the betrayed wife from sexual activity with other partners is a whole other concern, which I won’t address here. One of the hardest parts for me about my husband’s affair is that he was deeply emotionally involved with the OW during his affair. That still haunts me and I find it hard to believe that he doesn’t compare us (especially when he is frustrated or angry with me). I’m not sure how to get rid of that thought, and it is probably the main thing that still haunts me. That, and that he will decide I’m not “enough” for him.

      • That’s a very good point, and I agree with you entirely. I doubt very much whether any man goes into a sexual relationship with another woman with a view to becoming emotionally involved. It’s far more likely to be done to satisfy a need to be appreciated sexually, and to stave off the boredom of sex that’s become dull or non existent. Males are generally not as emotionally attached to anyone as women, and that’s a direct consequence of selective pressure. Males won’t be so successful if they don’t spread their genes, and that’s inhibited if you’re they’re attached to one woman. Nature has contrived to make it easier for men to cheat without being so callous as to abandon their wife and hence his children. He has to do enough to see his children thrive, but not so much as to miss the opportunity to father other children.
        I hope you don’t read all this in the wrong way. I’m not condoning or justifying anything. I’m just trying to rationalise the logic behind why we all feel the way we do.
        I don’t doubt that your husband was emotionally involved with the OW, but it would be a mistake to think that he wouldn’t be just as happy to cheat on her with a different OW too.
        I also don’t think he’ll be comparing you with another woman. The dynamics of that relationship are utterly different to those with you. Extra marital relationships focus on the exciting, intense and occasional encounters, where everything is stage managed to make things great. The brutal reality, is that setting up home with that person would almost certainly result in the same mindset that made him cheat in the first place. Strip away the excitement of the new, and illicit, and the restrictions of meeting, and it doesn’t seem so appealing.
        My guess is that he married the right person, and still thinks that.

  3. So much has been said already – all I can add is the old adage – Time Heals All Wounds. Patience and being kind to yourself can go a long way. My heart goes out to you. I know how you feel.

  4. Maggie, thanks for your encouragement and support. I am getting stronger every day (except when I regress, lol), and as much as I hate what happened, I am grateful for the opportunity my husband’s affair gave me to wake up and begin living more consciously. I checked out your blog and love it, BTW!

      • Glad I was able to make a smile. I do cartoon posts on most Saturdays. You should be able to get a smile on Mondays (Monday Morning Entertainment) and Wednesdays (Satirical headlines) … Friday is Opinions in the Shorts (very short commentaries), thus leaving Tuesdays and Thursday for random topics.

  5. Tears. You have amazing courage and strength. Thank you so very much for liking my blog. i thoroughly enjoyed reading this for so many personal reasons. Your writing is outstanding. Thank you for sharing.

    • Thank you, hotlilmess. One thing I have come to appreciate more after my experiences of the last few years and reading about other peoples’ experiences is our shared humanity, how we are all just trying to find our way the best we can at each moment. I have become more compassionate and forgiving towards myself and other people. And I am thankful for that. The key, I think, is always being open about our feelings and talking about them. The problems seem to occur when people stop talking to each other about the things that are important to them.

      I have been enjoying your blog and reading about your journey!

  6. Thanks for liking my blog – which has led me to visit yours 🙂 Very interesting – sounds like you’ve been on quite a journey! 🙂 It’s natural to get good and bad days – my own reassuring policy is, as long as the good days (or even moments) are increasing more than the down times, you must be doing something right! What I would say though, is that when you get those moments of pain, vulnerability and insecurity, instead of focusing on the previous/current actions of hubby for the reason/resolution, try to look deeper inside yourself (inner child healing) for latent memories that are trying to surface, in order to be acknowledged and released. As although you still naturally have insecurities about yourself because of the affair, it makes us feel a lot better when we realise that the cause of our pain is simply an old memory that got stuck in our energy system.
    Living/struggling with our emotional turbulence can overtake all that we are. Viewing ourselves from an energetic viewpoint, where our energy flows and gets blocked by trauma and distress, can make life a lot easier, because instead of trying to rectify the emotional problem(which often cannot be undone/resolved), we can learn how to remove blocks from our energetic system 🙂

  7. I’m very happy to read this post. Please also know this – it’s NOT your failures that caused him to stray. It’s his. With any number of choices available to him he sneaked around so that’s his cross to bear not yours.

    Each time you feel “not enough” for him or that he may decide “you are not worth it”, remind yourself of this fact – you know how to love, to care n feel for another human being and still make the right choices in life. You are more than enough. If he walks it’s his loss. You know how to learn new things you will survive n come out on top again.

    If he doesn’t get why u experience these insecurities then he needs a kick in his rear. If he had not nearly destroyed you to begin with he needn’t have to deal with this. So it’s not how long it’s been since he saw / spoke with the OW, it’s that there had been one in the first place. That’s not something he can erase n if he can’t b patient for as long as it takes then he needs to be kicked. He didn’t do u a favor by leaving the OW he did himself a favor.

    But in all you got it right. Believe you are wonderful the way you are. Be strong!!!

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